‘Brain dead’ man wakes before organs are taken

A man who was declared brain dead by doctors and about to have his organs removed for transplant is recovering well at home.

Zach Dunlap, 21, says he remembers hearing doctors pronouncing him dead on 19 November last year at a hospital in Texas. But then he started showing signs of life by moving his hand and foot.

He then reacted to a pocket knife scraped across his foot and pressure being applied under his fingernail. After 48 days recovering in hospital he was allowed home.

In January the Prime Minister backed calls for the whole population to be automatically registered for organ donation, unless they actively choose to opt out.

The Christian Institute responded by warning that organs may be harvested from patients who were not yet dead.

Doctors are keen to take organs from a body with a beating heart because the removal of the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys must be done before they begin to deteriorate due to cessation of blood circulation.

In Britain two doctors must agree that a patient is ‘brain dead’, though their heart continues to beat, before organs can be removed.

Some ‘brain-dead’ organ donors are given a general anaesthetic before removing their organs to suppress the body reacting to the physical distress of being cut into.

Secular ethicist Professor Peter Singer of Princeton University has said of these patients: “Defining such people as dead was a convenient way around the problems of making their organs available for transplantation, and withdrawing treatment from them.”

Medical ethicist, Michael Potts, has said: “Since the patient is not truly dead until his or her organs are removed, it is the process of organ donation itself that causes the donor’s death.”

Related Resources